Crystals were prized in many ancient cultures, and they remain so today—both for their scientific and their mystical qualities. Crystals have practical uses in radios, lasers, and computers, among other devices; and traditional Native American healers and New Age practitioners of alternative medicine believe that they have marvelous curative powers.

Ancient Greeks valued quartz crystal for its beauty and believed it had supernatural powers. The Greeks thought that the mineral

A woodcut of witches at a cauldron. (CORBIS CORPORATION)
A woodcut of witches at a cauldron. (
quartz with its crystalline structure was water frozen so thoroughly that it could never be thawed, and they called quartz, "krystallos," from the word "kryos," which means icy cold. Krystallos became "crystal" in English during the Middle Ages to refer to stones with structures like quartz. Atoms and molecules in crystals are always arranged in tidy rows. These repeated, orderly patterns give crystals their beautiful sparkle and special shapes.

Some crystals, when compressed, develop electrical charges (piezoelectricity) at their ends, and others develop similar charges when heated (pyroelectricity). Both of those properties are evident in quartz and make the mineral useful in sonar and radio, for amplifying electric current, and to help make possible the solar battery that converts sunlight into electrical energy.

Lithium crystals are an energy source in the popular Star Trek television and movie series to fuel the starship Enterprise. On Earth, lithium is the lightest known metal and is often used in storage batteries.

The verifiable qualities of crystals are show-cased in numerous applications in modern technology, but the mystical qualities of crystals are more difficult to explain and depend more on belief. Since the days of ancient Egypt, crystals have been believed to have healing properties and the ability to rid the body of negative energies. Crystals are believed to be able to store images and thoughts, serving as keepers of knowledge of the past. Among other attributes reputed of crystals is the ability to store and discharge light; to receive impressions from humans, who are able to program crystals for certain functions; to emit frequencies; and to become reenergized by sunlight and moonlight. Clear quartz is said to attract positive energy, and small wands with crystals mounted at both ends can supposedly locate pain or illness in a body.

Some mystics claim that inhabitants of the legendary continent of Atlantis used crystals to produce psychic energy and establish inter-stellar communication. Some believe that a powerful crystal energy source ultimately destroyed Atlantis. The popular twentieth century mystic Edgar Cayce (1877–1945) told his followers about his visions of the great crystals that powered Atlantis, and he referred to the healing capacities of crystals. Cayce taught that crystals possessed an energy within themselves that could be transmitted to people and be of great assistance in meditation, healing, and the achievement of higher levels of consciousness.

In 1976, medium/channel Frank Alper founded the Arizona Metaphysical Center in Phoenix and began channeling spirit messages that outlined methods of crystal therapy. In Exploring Atlantis (1982), three volumes of spirit directives on the powers of crystals, Alper out-lined techniques that were followed with careful attention by New Age enthusiasts around the world. Within a very short time, crystal therapists were applying the ancient healing exercises that Alper's channeled messages described as having originated in ancient Atlantis.

New Age believers in crystal power were told by a number of channelers that all people had within themselves a Higher Self that was the ultimate expression of their personality. This Higher Self could become a conduit

Crystal necklaces for healing and well-being. (CORBIS CORPORATION)
Crystal necklaces for healing and well-being. (
between themselves and a source of divinity that had the power to activate a crystal for the purpose of healing. Those who wished to focus the healing abilities inherent in crystal were told that they must activate their crystal by breathing their "intent" to help others into the crystal. The process of activation involved their taking their crystal in the left hand. According to New Age channeling, the act of holding one's crystal in the left hand will stimulate the creative, intuitive process in the right brain hemisphere. Once this has occurred, the supposed vortex of energy in the crystal begins interacting with the individual's electromagnetic field and will start to increase the field energy around him or her.

When the energy field has been activated, the individual is to begin to breathe into the crystal the intention to be able to heal the physical bodies of those who request a healing. The individual healer must remember always that the crystal will magnify his or her intention and thereby serve as a powerful healing instrument.

In addition to its use in healing, crystals have always been popular as devices utilized inscrying, the ancient fortune telling technique of foreseeing future events in a clear surface. Pure quartz crystals polished into spheres became popular for divining purposes during the Middle Ages, and such crystal balls are still used by various contemporary psychic readers to obtain glimpses of the future.

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